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Improving OTA TV reception, rural Iowa

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Tired of cable/satellite fees, want to go back to over the air.
Location, Badger, Iowa 50516. Antenna Web says my RF channels are between 5 and 39, and yes, I would like to be able to pull in the whole spectrum. I have a fairly large TV antenna (old Radio Shack, I think), mounted on an approximate 20 foot pole mounted to the side of my ranch-style house. It is above the peak of the house, but not by too much. I also have a Winegard HD-200 distribution amp, and a simple splitter that sends the signal to 2 different sets. Stations are all clustered together, from 60 to 65 miles southeast of here (between 153 and 154 degrees, which seems close to me!)

I currently get channels 11 and higher, but do NOT get channels 5 and 8 reliably, which are two channels I like to watch a lot.
Question: Where should I start? New antenna? Replace pole with a tower to get more height? Different/better signal amplifier? I would appreciate the input of those of you who know more about this stuff. Was thinking about the Winegard HD8200U antenna...its made right here in Iowa, which is good, but is it overkill? (I see the dimensions, it is BIG!). If an amp, what type/brand is good? Or, if I really need more height, tell me that, too. (not my first choice, because I can do the other two, but don't think I'm up to installing a tower myself).

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge!
post #2 of 12
Personally, I'd try the big antenna and a good preamp with lots of gain vs. distribution amp before doing the tower.
post #3 of 12
Please post a TV FOOL report so we can get a better idea of the signal strengths at your location.
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
post #5 of 12
Would be interested in seeing a photo of your current antenna. Wondering whether it's too small for your needs, or old/bent/weathered, or maybe just the coax (or even just some end connectors) might need to be replaced. If the antenna were fine, but you just needed new coax, that would of course save money. Is your current coax the good RG-6 variety, and in good condition? If it's the thinner-gauge RG-59, that would lose some signal, and your current antenna might be just fine. Is your current antenna aimed properly toward 154 degrees true, or has the wind blown it off-axis a bit over the years? Is your distribution amp working properly? (you could temporarily remove it to check). You should not need a tower, as your stations should be receivable down to KCCI-31 (CBS) at the normal 20-foot height.

After checking these things, if you decide to get a new antenna, because WOI is on real channel 5 (VHF-low), you'd need an antenna with VHF-low capability aimed at 154 degrees true, so the choices would include (from small to large):

1 - Winegard 7080P - http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?mc=03&p=HD7080P
2 - Winegard 7082P - http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?mc=03&p=HD-7082P
3 - Winegard 7084P - http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?mc=03&p=HD7084
4 - Winegard 8200U - http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?mc=03&p=HD8200U

Don't think you'd need the huge 8200U (at 168" boom length); it would probably be overkill. Since you have KCCI-31 (CBS) at only 12.7 dB NM, you'd want an antenna with decent gain on that channel. Clicking on the "Specifications" tab for each antenna shows the gain by channel groups. Perhaps the 7080P (at 90" length) would be too small, with only 5 (or less) dB gain on VHF channel 5, and 11 dB gain on UHF channel 32. Bumping up to the 7082P only goes up to 110.5" length, while bumping gain on VHF channel 5 up to about 6.3 dB and gain on UHF channel 32 up to 12.2 dB, while gain is over 10.0 dB on channels 7-13 (which is good). Bumping up to the 7084P (at 131" length) gives 12.1 dB gain at UHF channel 32 (so you don't gain anything there), but it does bump your VHF channel 5 gain up to about 7.4 dB.

Others can chime in with their views on the gain figures, but perhaps you could get away with the not-too-huge Winegard 7082P or bump up to the 7084P just to be safe, considering that returns might be a hassle. Amplify only if necessary.

Hope this is helpful - good luck...
post #6 of 12
Any chance you can post a picture of your antenna? Does it look similiar to this?:

If so, then most likely you have the correct antenna, and the right side of the picture is the front, which should be pointing towards 153/154 degrees in your case.

For testing purposes, I would try 1 cable from the antenna to 1 tv with no amp and no splitter. Then go from there. The cable should be RG6. And don't just simply unplug the amp, you must bypass it completely.

If you still have trouble receiving stations, then I would add the amp.
post #7 of 12
Yes, a photo would be helpful. Strange that your 2 problem channels are on VHF. Can you also post an FM Fool report. Looks like there a few strong FM signals in the area that may be part of the issue with those channels.
post #8 of 12
According to Wikipedia the version of KCCI on channel 31 is only a construction permit. That is one problem I have noticed with TV Fool in that they do not make note of construction permits that are not actually on the air, and sometimes never actually develop. Also, Rabbit Ears does not show CBS on channel 31 either.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
You guys are sharp! I have attached an FM Fool file Radar-FM.png 106k .png file

I hadn't thought about there being a 100,000 watt FM station 4 miles away might be a problem.

If that's it, what is the remedy?

I'll post a photo of my antenna later today. It's been cold (below zero), so I haven't ventured out for photo opportunities lately. Break in the weather today, though.

I think my wiring is OK (RG6, not hugely old). I am going to try to bypass my amplifier and splitter today, see what happens. The Amp has an FM trap, should I turn that on?

Anyway, you've given me lots of great ideas, just need to start troubleshooting to figure it all out.
post #10 of 12
It helps that your strongest FM station KIAQ on 96.9 is at 352 degrees, which is opposite to most of your TV signals at 154 degrees.

Try the tests suggested by Mikepier in post #6. An FM trap, either separate or built-in an amp, would certainly make KIAQ weaker.
post #11 of 12
When strong FM signals go through the VHF portion of your Preamp, they generate second harmonics
on top of Hi-VHF Band and possibly 4th harmonics on top of some UHF frequencies....plus intermods.
Which is why I usually recommend use of W-G AP-4700 Preamp which does NOT amplify VHF Band.
You could try temporarily bypassing Preamp to see if that is enough to receive unamplified VHF channels.

FM Trap in most Preamps is intended to help protect ONLY Ch6, since a Notch Filter has a very narrow
bandwidth....so it can only suppress signals on the lowest end of the FM Band....imperfectly....and you
probably have no access to equipment to retune it for ONLY ONE of your several strong FM signals.

What you need is an "FM BAND REJECT FILTER", which provides significant suppression for ALL
FM Band frequencies, such as Antennas Direct "FM Filter:, which is a better "fit" for your location
than the RS 15-377, which has minimal suppression on the lower end of the FM Band:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1431548/fm-filter#post_22451736 [See preceeding performance graph]

A more expensive alternative that provides 40 dB (vice 20 dB) suppression is Tin-Lee CR-7:
Edited by holl_ands - 2/3/13 at 2:03pm
post #12 of 12
Also, if you are that close to one or two high-powered FM stations, you may be getting what is called "Blanketing" interference.

Not sure just exactly how it is defined, as far as distance, but stations often will have access to some notch filters that are cut for their own frequency. If you are within the "blanketing" radius, they have to give you some assistance. Even if you are a little further away than the "legal" radius, asking nicely will sometimes get you a filter from them. That way, you only lower the signal on the strongest (interfering) signal, and can still use the antenna for FM reception.
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